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Is this the coolest SUV yet?

We take the Audi SQ8 TDI out on the UK roads for the first time. Mark Hedley finds out if the new SUV is as good as it looks

The Lamborghini Urus is an amazing feat of engineering, but it does rather shout “look at me!” (Then caveats with “I’m an alien spaceship that’s mated with a tractor”.)

The Bentayga and the Cullinan are two of the finest crafted cars that your considerable money can buy, but then they look like, well, the Bentayga and the Cullinan.

Meanwhile, most Mercedes SUVs will make you look like a drug dealer. And don’t even get me started on those BMW nostrils.

So when it comes to performance SUVs, what are you left with?

Jaguar Land Rover’s top-tier models are difficult to beat – from the drive to the desirability – they’ve got it going on.

But now there’s a new guy in town.

This month, Square Mile got its hands on the new Audi SQ8 for the first ever drive on UK roads. The German marque’s new showstopper did not disappoint.

First, there are the aesthetics: it is undeniably the best looking Audi SUV yet. It comes down to the combination of the balanced proportions, the giant diamond-cut alloys, and the menacing grill. It’s even better looking from the back. Audi’s sweeping LED rear lights always look the business, and the new SQ8 set-up is the most attractive yet.

The SQ8 is packing a four-litre V8 430bhp twin-turbo diesel engine – the most powerful diesel in Europe

But it’s what’s beneath that really counts.

Namely a four-litre V8 430bhp twin-turbo diesel engine – the most powerful diesel in Europe, in fact. Now, we know diesel is a dirty word, but there’s no denying that it can still make a lot of sense. Especially, when you consider this one enables the SQ8 up to 600 miles on one tank. And, perhaps more excitingly, it delivers 900Nm of torque. To put that in context, Audi’s flagship petrol R8 produces 570Nm.

The result is a zero-60mph time of 4.8 seconds in a car that weighs 2.4 tonnes. Electric may be the future, but diesel still has its place right now.

The car is, to be fair, actually a type of hybrid – just not in the traditional sense. The 48-volt main electrical system incorporates two important technology modules: a lithium-ion battery and a belt alternator starter. During braking, it can recover up to 12 kW of power and feed it back into the battery.

The electronic trickery doesn’t end there – the EPC for example calculates and feedbacks in 250 milliseconds what, in real terms, would take me about 250 hours to explain.

There’s HD Matrix LED lighting, which enables the lights to remain on full-beam while selectively dimming certain areas when required.

Inside, the ambient lighting is very effective – and includes some nice little tricks. For example, put your temperature down and it temporarily goes blue; turn the heat up and it goes red.

The new haptic display screens are sensory and intuitive. And, unlike JLR’s, the seat controls are not buried within the matrix, but reside on their own screen beneath the main one.

There’s also wireless phone charging in the central armrest – a neat addition reducing the number of leads cluttering up your cockpit.

Opt for the top-of-the-range Vorsprung model (66% of customers have done so far) and you get a few more tasty toppings.

There’s all-wheel steering – in other words, the rear wheels turn, too. This doesn’t just help the handling, but also its manoeuvrability for parking.

There’s the quattro sport differential, which means grip is tight and controlled.

And there's active roll stabilisation, which means the car feels like it’s about two feet lower than it actually is – there’s none of the pitch and yaw you’d expect from an SUV.

So, what does this all add up to? Well, the coolest SUV yet.

Until the RSQ8 is launched, that is.

Audi SQ8 TDI £81,740; SQ8 TDI Vorsprung £104,240; audi.co.uk

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